The Brandeis Bioinspired Soft Materials Center seeks to create new materials that are constructed from only a few simplified components, yet capture the remarkable functionalities found in living organisms. In addition to opening new directions in materials science research, these efforts will elucidate the minimal requirements for the emergence of biological function. This challenging endeavor draws upon our expertise in diverse and complementary experimental and theoretical techniques that span the physical and life sciences. Brandeis offers an ideal environment for such an interdisciplinary undertaking. Its small size engenders a highly collaborative environment. Its innovative graduate program trains students who work and thrive at the interface of physical and life sciences. Its life science faculty have pioneered biochemical studies of molecular motors and cytoskeletal machinery, its chemists have synthesized biocompatible self-assembling filaments, and its physicists have made important contributions toward understanding soft materials such as liquid crystals, gels and colloids. Researchers in the BioInspired Soft Materials Center combine elemental building blocks, such as motor proteins, DNA origami and filamentous virus, to understand the emergence of biomimetic functionalities that are highly sought-after in materials science and to synergistically engineer life-like materials.
The goal of IRG1 (Membrane based Materials) is to uncover the design principles that cells use to shape and reconfigure membranes, and to apply these principles in order to engineer heterogeneous and reconfigurable membrane materials. To accomplish this we will exploit the analogy between nanometer-sized lipid bilayers and micron-sized colloidal monolayers assembled from filamentous viruses or DNA origami rods.
The goal of IRG2 (Biological Active Materials) is to create active analogs of quintessential soft matter systems including gels, liquids crystals, emulsions and vesicles using elemental force generators, such as motor proteins and monomer treadmilling. We will experimentally and theoretically characterize the emergent properties of such materials, including their ability to convert chemical energy into mechanical work, perform locomotion, and undergo dynamical reconfiguration.